ONIR – I AM –
AFIA – MEGHA – ABHIMANYU – OMAR - 2011
What makes that film special?
The four stories in themselves
are rather simple at world level if we look at them from the middle class bland
and neutered point of view.
Afia is a woman web designer who
wants to make a child from a sperm donation
but cannot accept the idea that the donor has to remain unidentified
otherwise it no longer is a donation. And her breaking the rules is in fact
introducing suffering – and we mean the concept “dukkha” – in the donor that
she rejects just as easily as she tears up his phone number. She is not a liberated
woman, she is a completely self-centered and in many ways egotistic woman. She
is not going to change the world.
Megha ran away when the crisis
hit Kashmir some years ago and she comes back for a visit and finds out that
the people who stayed behind and were her friends or her family’s friends are
in fact in many ways resenting her coming back with her “veil-less and sexually
unreserved evolution” that is provocative to the people who stayed behind and
tried to build up a compromise between themselves and the Indian authorities,
even if it meant regular humiliation. To go away from a crisis is never solving
the crisis and is absolutely not justified for those who stayed behind and
tried to find a solution.
Abhimanyu is one story that
really touches some universal problem, the case of a pedophile stepfather who
takes advantage of his stepson every single time his wife, and his stepson’s
mother goes away for a couple of days on business (which makes that family, and
that woman, upper middle class). In fact it shows the stepson comes to the idea
it is in a way normal and he lives with it and tries to keep the fact to
himself because somewhere he knows it is not normal and he cannot tell. One day
though, his stepfather on his deathbed, or close to his death, he finds the
courage to tell one woman friend of his and then to go with her to his mother’s
for a last visit to his stepfather whom they find dead and already incinerated.
The son then has the courage to tell the mother but she no longer is HIS
mother. She is THE mother, an anonymous distant and totally locked up woman who
does not hear her own son and his suffering. So there is no other way but to go
away and maybe think THE mother might become HIS mother again one day and
accept what he has told her.
Omar, the last story, is universal
for sure but it is definitely both sad and somewhere revealing. The main character
is some gay film director who one day just falls in the trap of some hustler
who pretends to be looking for a proposal in the film industry. The film
director is thus manipulated into having some pre-sexual contact in his car
when a cop comes and manages to blackmail the film director out of 100,000
rupees and since some is missing he takes Omar, the hustler into custody. But
some time later the film director finds the hustler doing what he is best at
doing, hustling on the street. The film director confronts him and that is all.
It reveals a gay man in India
has to be prudent because the hustlers are doing a job that is dangerous and
that these hustlers have to have some agreement with the cops to be able to
practice without too much trouble and the only way is to fool some rich
What does this film show about
First we only see the middle class, and even some upper middle class. Don’t
expect to have even one glimpse into the fate of the Dalits. Second we find out
this society is evolving very fast in standards and in means and that pretty
soon it may be, at least in its middle class, comparable to the West, though
the poorest layers of the Indian society are hardly moving up, particularly the
Dalits, though some are getting some improvement because the Christian churches
and the Buddhists have done a lot to promote them in education, but that is not
shown in the film. Third this Indian society is in a post-colonial situation
and people are the victims of a Post Traumatic Colonial Disorder that finds its
way out in various fields and domains but particularly in the ability to
establish sane and balanced relations with other people. This gives a
completely different approach.
Afia cannot accept to have an
equal relation with a man because she inherits from a very old situation that
has always put women down and she cannot conceived her freedom as a woman with
a man, but only by dominating and frustrating the man she encounters along her
personal and exclusive path. Megha lives exactly the same problem but this time
in a Moslem context and she cannot understand and accept that religion is part
of her Kashmiri friends, because she has run away from Kashmir
and she has abandoned that religion and its veils and other restrictions. Abhimanyu
first and his mother second cannot face the fact that there used to be a time
when pedophile stepfathers were the protected or at least tolerated norm and
that today things have to change. Finally Omar is a typical exploiter of such a
postcolonial situation in order to be able to do what he wants, have gay sex
and make a living out of it without a pimp, and yet he deals with the cops as
if they were his pimps.
Some of these postcolonial
situations are in fact a lot more universal than we may think and they are
quite common still in western countries, and quite worse in some countries that
have not yet been able to face their postcolonial and post traumatic situation.
Then the film becomes a signpost for what has to be done in all countries and
in the world to finally enable women, Moslems (or any religious or cultural
minority), children and gays (or any sexual minority) to be free and not
exploited by anyone. Otherwise these people who fall in the traps of
exploitation will be the victims of more or less severe PTSD.
A film to watch and try to
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU